I was really torn this morning about subject matter. Do I write about Midget Mexican Bullfighters which are apparently all the rage down Old Mexico way? Do I write about the article that appeared in the Houston Chronicle this past weekend about oilfield gate guarding?
Dang it! Decisions decisions! On the one hand I know y’all are as curious about teeny toreadors as I am – talk about something you don’t see every day! On the other hand, a goodly bunch of readers probably don’t care spit about the mini-me matadors. Good enough. Call up your Google-Fu if you wanna know more about something better suited for the Springer Show.
Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle ran a reasonably accurate piece about the Department of Labor suing Gate Guard Services over the status of their oil field gate guard employees. Are we independent contractors or not?
I have been self-employed many times since I entered the workforce long about 1970. This latest stint of self employment started almost 10 years ago and I gotta say it suits me. I prefer to go my own way and so does Miss K. We like to stay out of the focus as much as we can. Nah, we aren’t felons who robbed a 7-11 with underwear on our heads or anything i.e. we are not running from the law. We did pass that govmint background test to get this gate guard gig, remember? Some people just enjoy more of a degree of anonymity than others. And some people think the govmint intrudes enough into our lives as it is and they just need to back off — way back. You notice how I never mention who we work for? Or that I don’t have one of those little maps in the sidebar that pinpoints our location day by day? Well, there ya go. No need for it.
I am not confused about my employee status – not in the least. Know why? We were told what was expected of us by the Company and then the Company told us what our compensation for said duties would be. They told us what equipment they supplied and what we would need to provide. They told us if we met their expectations, they would send us a paycheck every two weeks. You do XYZ work, we pay you XX dollars. Very simple, very straightforward. Even a midget mexican matador could understand it; a 12 year old could understand it.
At the end of all the back and forth talking, the paperwork came out and one of the pieces of paper we signed was the agreement that we understood we would be independent contractors. Yep crystal clear. It was explained simply and succinctly and we agreed to it. I enjoy the independent contractor status. The landowner or the Company Man for EOG tells me what our duties are. Nobody tells us how to split up our hours to cover the gate properly and nobody tells me what I can or cannot do when I am not standing on the line checking a vehicle in or out. Now word is the lawsuit was initiated by a disgruntled former employee and I buy that completely. There are at least two stories circulating as to why they are disgruntled. I am not even going to repeat hearsay.
This disgruntled employee most likely signed paperwork that was quite similar to what we signed. Most likely, they were told what the expectations of the job were and what the pay scale was. If the disgruntled employee didn’t like the situation after a period of time, they were free to move on. They were not indentured and their RV was not chained to a post for damned sure. Just move on bud. You are making us all look bad.
I hate to think what will happen if we become employees? If Gate Guard Services loses, I imagine the rest of the gate guard companies will fall in line as well. Their employee costs will go up for sure. What will they cut to offset the increased cost of labor? What freedom to work as we wish will be lost? I hate to even think about the answers to those questions. One of the companies that has already caved in to the Department of Labor and now classifies you as an employee requires a work contract these days and I do believe it is for 90 days at least. When people ask me what I like about the oil field gate guarding job, one of the things I always tell them is we have the ability to work when we want to. If I just want to work in the winter ala the snowbirds, that is cool. If I want to take 3 weeks off and ramble out toward Terlingua that is okey dokey as well. This lawsuit is just screwing up a good thing as far as I am concerned.
Any of you oilfield gate guard vets see anything wrong with the above picture? It is the picture that accompanied the Houston Chronicle story. I see plenty wrong with it.
It is a news crew / reporter. They never pass through the gates without specific permission.
They have a camera. Nobody comes in the gate and wanders around the property with a camera without permission.
Whoever this gate guards is ( or maybe was at this point), they were NOT doing their job. Period. Not gonna happen on our watch.